El Salvador migration updates

The cycle of Salvadorans migrating northwards continues, but with some changes.   Here are a series of recent developments. 

Large decline in Salvadorans crossing US Border.    Statistics from US Customs and Border Control show a significant reduction in the number of Salvadorans apprehended crossing the US southern border.   After a tremendous surge in the twelve months from October 2018- September 2019 when an average of 246 Salvadorans were apprehended every day, in the most recent four months ending January 31, the average has been 62 per day, a reduction of 75%.

The reasons for the decline are many and overlapping.   They include increased border militarization and enforcement by Mexico at its border with Guatemala; increasingly harsh US application of the Migrant Protection Protocols which force asylum seekers to remain in dangerous conditions in Mexico while their cases are heard in US immigration courts; and a ban on asylum awards for anyone arriving at the border after July 16, 2019 without first applying for asylum in Mexico or Guatemala.  As news of these developments arrives back in home communities, it appears that fewer persons are choosing to leave.

Improved conditions in El Salvador may also be reducing migration.   With homicide rates dropping to post war lows and the population expressing significant support for the direction of the country under the Bukele government, some of the factors which push people onto the route north may be weakening.  However, since Honduras and Guatemala saw similar large declines in outward migration in the past four months, without having their own improvement in domestic conditions, it is hard to quantify how much an improving El Salvador is dampening migration totals. 

Temporary agricultural visas.  It was announced last week that the US government will make available up to one thousand H-2A visas available during 2020 for seasonal agricultural workers from El Salvador. For those farm-workers who obtain the visas, this could provide a family supporting job. However, these one thousand visas are many fewer than the over-hyped 11,000 US farms waiting to hire Salvadorans and the 6,000 visas in the works which president Bukele and his minister of labor touted last year, prompting more than 20,000 Salvadorans to apply.

The pipeline of deportations from US is huge.   At the end of 2019, there were 172,000 open cases in US immigration courts where the government was seeking to deport a citizen of El Salvador according to the Syracuse University TRAC immigration database.

Past deportations from the US ignored danger says HRW.  Human Rights Watch released a report recently titled Deported To Danger: United States Deportation Policies Expose Salvadorans to Death and Abuse.   The report is one of the first to investigate what happens to immigrants after they are deported by the US back to El Salvador.   What happens when they are returned to the conditions from which they fled in the first place?
The US government has deported people to face abuse and even death in El Salvador. The US is not solely responsible—Salvadoran gangs who prey on deportees and Salvadoran authorities who harm deportees or who do little or nothing to protect them bear direct responsibility—but in many cases the US is putting Salvadorans in harm’s way in circumstances where it knows or should know that harm is likely....
Researchers from HRW poured over news reports and public information to attempt to collect information on the fate of migrants, including the number of migrants murdered upon return to the country:
Some deportees are killed following their return to El Salvador. In researching this report, we identified or investigated 138 cases of Salvadorans killed since 2013 after deportation from the US. We found these cases by combing through press accounts and court files, and by interviewing surviving family members, community members, and officials. There is no official tally, however, and our research suggests that the number of those killed is likely greater.
Since HRW's report indicates there were 111,000 Salvadorans deported from the US during the 6 year study period, you would expect quite a few more than 138 murders since the annual homicide rate in the country ranged from 40 to more than 100 per 100,000 population during that period. 

El Salvador not ready for Asylum Cooperation Agreement.  Along with Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador signed an Asylum Cooperation Agreement with the US in 2019 permitting the US to send El Salvador asylum seekers from other countries to solicit there.   But El Salvador is delaying any start of the agreement.   From the AP:
El Salvador is not ready to receive asylum seekers from the United States and will not accept them until it can offer them the necessary protections and support, Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco said.... 
“We are not going to admit anyone seeking asylum until we as a country have the conditions and technical, financial and human capacity to be able to give these people who are seeking asylum and sent to another country the best treatment,” Hill Tinoco said.
It's hard to imagine that El Salvador, facing a wave of 172,000 of its own deported citizens, where more than 1000 Salvadorans leave and are apprehended at the US border each and every month, and where deportees face the violence faced by all persons in El Salvador, could ever be ready to give a proper and humane reception to asylum seekers from other countries.


David said…
Anecdotally, I’m more and more convinced that one unexplored factor (among the many) in the drop in Salvadoran border apprehensions is the return to the use of traditional routes with coyotes. Given Salvadoran’s long history of migration, I think Salvadorans are probably more able to take advantage of this.

One person I spoke with in Honduras had recently met with someone in Houston who paid $20,000 to get to the US, although some portion of that total that required a period of what is essentially indentured servitude until the debt could be paid off entirely.

I wish there were stories like this one last December showing up every day. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/its-a-business-that-youre-not-going-to-stop-people-spend-over-4-billion-a-year-to-be-smuggled-into-the-us-2019-12-19